Prior to my recent move to Spain, I was under the impression that I would be moving to this city as my acceptance read “Valencia”, however, I missed the word “Comunidad” preceding it.
Though living in Valencia City would have been a dream, I sulked like a five-year-old because it was not Madrid, the city I really wanted to move to. Little did I know at the time that Comunidad Valencia encompassed the region — or the state of Valencia, and I would end up in a smaller, rather peculiar city named Benidorm. But that’s a different story. Anyways, back to Valencia City, and the few days I spent in the place I thought I was going to call home.
Day 1: Self guided tour + Italian nights in Spain
I arrived in Valencia by bus on Saturday afternoon, it was a pretty easy 2 hours from where I live, and there are plenty of buses arriving at the terminal from all over Spain.
Valencia city is an airport hub as well with decently priced flights to destinations around Europe so that could be a good option if you are coming from further away. We took the city bus to travel from the bus station to the Sercotel Acteon Hotel, which was located on the outskirts of the center. This was the best option to save some euros since the route was straightforward.
The Sercotel Acteon left me with a great impression. The rooms were very clean, comfortable, and cozy, the hotel comes with amenities such as a gym, sauna, and squash, which I only made use of for about 20 minutes one day… priorities, maybe mine could use some work.
There is a restaurant located in the hotel, and breakfast was available for an extra charge but we opted to try other restaurants around Valencia instead. My first impression was this is an ex-pat hotel for business people, after working in the hospitality industry for some time it has become easy for me to see what different hotels cater to. The goal of this one seemed to be efficiency, cleanliness, and a good night’s rest, which is great for me, even though this was not a business trip.
The location would be the biggest downside to this hotel for me personally, I like staying in city centers and being in the heart when I leave my place. The Sercotel was not completely away from the city, however, to get to the Ciutat Vella, which is the “Old Town” in Valenciano, it took about half an hour on foot, not too bad but not ideal. I would say this is a great place to stay if you are wanting a more comfortable stay with a private room.
However, if I would return with friends I would opt for a hostel in the old town, where the majority of the sights are within walking distance as well as the nightlife. A positive to the location of the Sercotel Acteon is that it’s near the museums, which could easily take up 2 or 3 days of your stay, and it is a little closer to the coast.
I knew this was going to be a food-filled trip (but when is it not) so I hurried to take advantage of the gym in the hotel for a few minutes, but with only a few days in the city, I couldn’t spend too much time there.
We then walked towards the city center and stopped at Mercat de Colon, Valenciano for Colon Market, this is a picturesque Mercado, with restaurants, and small shops with cute jewelry, clothing, and other quality items. Our main reason for coming to this location was horchata. This is a sweet, milky cold beverage that is typical in Valencia, usually accompanied by pastries called fartons.
I went to a few horchaterias on this trip but Horchateria Daniel, located in Mercat de Colon was the best, as were the fartons. The ambiance of the cafe and market in general was lively and elegant, but not overwhelming, it is a great place to have a snack and take a break.
We continued our stroll towards the center, passing through the shopping district, and plazas until we arrived at the Cathedral in the old town, where we made our next stop on our food tour, and had a glass of Agua de Valencia at a restaurant in the Plaza de la Virgen.
Have you ever heard of Valencia oranges? Well, that name has meaning. Fun fact, Valencia oranges are actually from California… not Valencia, but Valencia is known for oranges! And the streets are lined with fragrant orange trees. Anyways, back to Agua de Valencia, this is a dangerous cocktail made with fresh squeezed orange juice, cava or champagne, vodka, and gin. It reminded me of a mix of mimosa and a screwdriver. Usually, it is served in a jug or in Spanish Jarra and drank from cocktail glasses. Tastes like sweet fresh orange juice, but it definitely gets the job done.
From here we went to the Porta de Serrans before dinner, this is a landmark to see in Valencia not far from the Cathedral.
Since I am living in Spain, I am no longer in the phase of “I am only going to eat Spanish food until I leave”, so I consulted a friend who is familiar with Valencia for a good Italian restaurant and he recommended San Tommaso and Lambrusqueria, both of which typically need a reservation.
After calling both we ended up at San Tommaso which was not far from where we were. The wait was over half an hour so we had a glass of wine at another Italian restaurant/bar across the street called Tinto Fino Ultramarino which had a trendy, retro vibe and seemed to have a delectable and authentic Italian menu as well. I would highly recommend San Tommaso, the food was delicious and genuinely Italian, it fully satisfied by craving.
We planned on a night out, as it was Saturday, but after a full day of traveling, walking, and eating we ended up staying in. Our plan was Mya, which was recommended to me, this club is located in the Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias, which I found interesting, and also near our hotel, but unfortunately, we didn’t make it.
On that note, a travel tip of mine is to rest when you really need it! There have been times when I’ve traveled and pushed my body to the limit and end up getting sick or crashing, so save your days by resting at night if your body is really in need. Another way I was recommended to spend a night out in Valencia city is to go to bars in the old town and just hop around the area, more of a reason to stay in that barrio as well!
Day 2: Valencian specialties — Food and art and shopping
Is there a favorite food of yours that you aspire to try in each new city you visit? For me that food is acai, I know it is native to Brazil and Hawaii but I’ve found that if I find a restaurant with great acai bowls, it will most likely have other healthy, delicious options.
To start day 2 in Valencia we opted to take the bus to the center instead of walking. It took about the same amount of time as the walk but since we knew we would be walking all day it was working the €1.50.
Once there we had breakfast at Almalibre Acai Bar, which had high reviews and quite an authentic acai, and around the corner, there was another Brazilian restaurant that had pao de ceiju and coxinha, not sure why there was so much Brazilian food but I’m not complaining.
In the area we came across sculptures for Las Fallas, a Valencian festival held annually in March, it is wild. I hope to attend this year and experience the rambunctious parades of massive, intricate sculptures which take the full year to construct only to be burned down around midnight on the last day of the festival in a firework-filled bonfire.
If you would like to attend I would suggest booking early since this festival attracts masses of tourists from around the world.
Our next stop was the Palace del Marques de Dos Aguas, also in the Ciutat Vella. This Palace turned museum was originally built in the 15th century which is evident through the gothic exterior but revamped in the Rococo era (18th century), with signs of Spanish Baroque design. The Palace holds Valencian artifacts and is home to the Museum of Ceramics and Decorative arts along with original furniture. We happened to go on a Sunday so entry was free, but on other days it is €3. The majority of museums have either a day or certain times during a day where entry is free, I would highly recommend checking and planning your days with that in mind to save some extra €€.
This palace wasn’t too large so it took us under an hour to look around and I would recommend it since it is right in the heart of the city, cheap (or free) and has stunning valencian art and history.
Our next stop was naturally, more food. We went to a typical and well-known Valencian restaurant named La Valenciana, to enjoy a dish called fideua, paella’s sister.
Fideua is made of short thin pasta rather than bomba rice but is cooked in the same way with the same ingredients. We ordered a big pan of fideua and devoured it accompanied by beer, bread with garlic aioli, and typical Spanish olive oil and tomatoes. Safe to say after this and breakfast we were sufficiently stuffed.
Since I am living in a smaller city, I usually conjure up a list of items to buy when I visit hubs, like Madrid or Valencia. So our next stop was Primark, for those of you that are unfamiliar with this amazing store. It is your one-stop shop for everything, especially when you are traveling Europe on a budget, here you can find everything from clothes and shoes to bed sheets and makeup for incredibly low prices. If you are going to be traveling a while pick up necessities from Primark for cheap and you won’t have to feel guilty leaving it behind when your backpack fills up.
I have a friend who arrived in Europe when the weather was just getting cold, she purchased a winter coat from Primark, wore it for the few months it was cold, and left it at the airport when she was on her way to hot and humid Thailand! Best €30 she’s ever spent.
Another thing Spain is known for is shoes. Ever heard of espadrilles? They are Spanish! And you can get the best platforms, and boots here. Winter is coming, and I needed boots, so I picked up a pair, in Europe I would say buy shoes in Spain, they are almost always amazing quality for a decent price. Except for one time when the platform of my espadrille fell off during a hostel pub crawl in Sevilla on one of my solo trips… But that’s a different story.
Still full from all the food we had earlier, we opted for some agua de Valencia instead of dinner. We google mapped our way to Sant Jaume, it had great reviews and was €9 for a jar or jug. The atmosphere was great and the agua de Valencia was delicious, after a few drinks we strolled around a bit more and came across a small square with a few cool bars, all with similar names.
La Cava del Negret was the one we stopped at in Negret in Placa del Negret, here we had another jarra of agua de Valencia and one of Sangria de Cava — this is Sangria made with cava, a typical wine/champagne from the Valencia/Catalonia region. After all these jarras we decided it was time to call it a night.
Day 3: The messy side of travel… but at least we’re near a beach!
Traveling can be a dream, but it can also be a nightmare. Due to visa complications majority of this Monday was dedicated to visiting police offices, immigration offices, and government buildings, but that is a whole different story that I will discuss later.
After Spending most of the day completing stressful legal errands by lunchtime we were starving and also on a budget. In Spain most restaurants have something called “menu del día” this is a set menu offered at lunch that includes an appetizer, entree, drink, and either coffee or dessert, and of course bread for around €10. Yes, €10. So that is what we did that day, we just stopped into a random place for one and they almost always are delicious and this one definitely was.
The legal errands brought us to an area outside the heart of Valencia and we realized at lunch that we were not too far from the coast, so we caught the tram to the beach. It was freezing and very windy but we took a walk on the beach and stopped for some coffee and horchata at a horchateria, but I have to admit this one wasn’t nearly as good as Horchateria Daniel, so quality does vary from place to place, keep that in mind. We ended the day early so we could try and fit in the Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias on our last day.
Day 4: City of Arts and Sciences
When Valencia comes to your mind, you probably envision the futuristic architecture that looks like it came straight out of a dystopian film. Towering white buildings created by abnormal shapes with light shades of blue.
This is the Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias, which lucky for us was not far from our hotel, a huge benefit to our location since one could spend a few days exploring these grounds. We, on the other hand, had less than a day to tackle it. We started at Oceanographic, the aquarium in the area, it is the 4th largest in the world and was incredible to see but also heartbreaking. We spent almost the whole day watching sea creatures that ranged from jellyfish and eels, to beluga whales and sea lions.
We left only about an hour for the science museum, many of the exhibits were under renovations and our lack of attention span after a busy day and the idea that we needed to make our bus didn’t allow me to enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise. But I will hopefully be returning at some point this year to give it another look.
At this point we ran back to our hotel to grab our bags and rushed to the bus station to head back home. The amount of time I spent in Valencia was sufficient to get a taste, but as usual, I would love to return to find more hidden spots and of course, for Las Fallas!
- Best for getting around in the center, this area is walkable.
- About a euro more or less for each ride.
- Great for traveling outside of the center (like to the beach).
- Unfortunately uber isn’t in Valencia city so taxis are the best if you are trying to catch a ride
- I personally didn’t think this is necessary if you are just visiting the city, and parking would cost an extra $$.
Where to stay:
Depending on what your main purpose of the trip is, this can vary:
Center (Old Town):
- I would stay here to have easy access to most of the sights, and nightlife.
- Hotels will be more pricey in this area so if I am traveling alone or with friends I would stay in a hostel, there are plenty for good prices!
City of Arts and Science:
- If your main goal is to spend a few days at the museums I would stay here, the nightclub MYA is also here for the nightlife, and it is also about a 30-minute walk from the center.
- This is a more affordable area for a hotel if you would like a more comfortable stay.
- If you are visiting in warmer times you might opt to stay by the beach. There are a lot of hotels and accommodations in this area.
Where to eat:
- Horchateria Daniel (Mercat Colon).
- Horchateria Fabian.
- Horchateria Santa Catalina.
Agua de Valencia:
- Sant Jaume ($9 jarras).
- La Cava de Negret (Plaza Negret, great drinks, and vibes).
Paella & Fideua:
- La Valenciana.
- San Tommaso.
- Tinto Fino Ultramarino.